Metals of Metabolism: The Construction of Industrial Space and the Commodification of Early Modern Sápmi

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In 1634, silver was found in inland Sápmi, on the present border between Norway and Sweden. The Swedish Crown had the ore extracted and a works for refining the silver was established in Silbojokk the following year. During the coming decades, two more works and many mines were opened in Sápmi. Sámi, Swedish and Dutch/German migrant workers were employed under restrictive conditions and in a harsh climate. A colonial discourse was developed, viewing Sápmi as the Americas of the Swedes and the Sámi as distinctly non-Swedish/non-European. Expectations of rapid economic and political gain created a metabolic relation to natural resources. The precious metals were exploited at whatever cost. This process caused a change in the perception of man, landscape and nature. Soon, the metal ores were exhausted and all the woods cut down. The three works studied here were all abandoned during the seventeenth century. The metabolic relation to the landscape and the process of commodifying nature prevailed and laid the foundation for later industrial expansion during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

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... The interests in the northern fringe of Fennoscandia nonetheless consolidated and diversified in the early modern period when Lapland also begun to draw wider European attention. King Gustav Vasa claimed Lapland as part of the Swedish realm in the sixteenth century and the Swedish state expanded and tightened its control of the North in the following century, which also saw the first mining boom in Lapland after the discovery of silver ore in Nasafjäll (Nordin 2015). Although a poor and peripheral country, Sweden was aggressively expansive in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and briefly became a northern European great power with successful involvement in the Thirty Years War in the lands of the Holy Roman Empire on the Continent. ...
... Lapland/Sápmi thus emerged as an arena for the Crown's dreams of transforming an 'uncultivated' land and its 'savage' inhabitants into a civilized and productive part of the realm (see Naum 2016). At the same time, a wider European interest in northern lands emerged as, for instance, the Dutch became closely engaged in Swedish mining industries while the exotic and exciting Lapland emerged as a prime destination of European travellers in conjunction with the decline of the Mediterranean-centred Grand Tour institution (Byrne 2013;Nordin 2015). For foreigners, the North was primarily a matter of curiosity and exoticism, whereas the Swedish authorities had a utilitarian approach and were mostly interested in surveying the resources that Lapland had to offer (Naum 2016, 495-6). ...
... The poorly known Lapland, then, was envisioned, from the sixteenth century to the Swedish era of greatness and well beyond it into the eighteenth, as a land of untapped material resources and riches in the form of agricultural expansion and a source of minerals and forest products, as well as even pearl fishing (Naum 2016, 501-2;Nordin 2015). Lapland, however, was envisioned and served as a resource of intangible and symbolic riches. ...
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... We have elsewhere discussed the role of an Atlantic colonial ideology for the early modern strategies and policies of the Danish-Norwegian and Swedish kingdoms in Sápmi, for instance concerning the exploitation of natural resources and the commodification of land, people and material culture (Nordin 2010(Nordin , 2012(Nordin , 2014(Nordin , 20152017a, 2017bNordin and Ojala 2015;Ojala and Nordin 2015;Ojala 2017). However, the role of private entrepreneurs as exploiters of natural resources, traders in colonial goods and brokers of colonial ideasand their relations with the local populationshas not been discussed much in relation to Sápmi and the Torne River Valley. ...
... Several of these shared traits are also visible in private and state strategies and enterprises in the North. The search for metals, and the discursive relation between Danes, Norwegians, Finns, Swedes and the Sámi population, show both similarities and divergences when compared to colonial situations overseas (see for instance papers in Nordin 2012Nordin , 2015Naum and Nordin 2013;Ojala and Nordin 2015). To what extent the situation in the Torne River Valley is related to the concurrent global development is, however, still an understudied field of research. ...
... At the silverworks of Silbbajåhkå/Silbojokk, a rich assemblage of Sámi find material from the period 1635 to 1659 has been excavated. For instance, a rare and distinctly Sámi copper pendant in the shape of AM -Ave Mariawas found (Nordin 2012, 157;Nordin 2015). Sacred Sámi drums, goavddis (SaN.) or gievrie (SaS.), were often adorned with and partly made of copper. ...
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... Nordin 2013). The ambition to dominate is clearly visible in its geometrically constructed landscapes and gardens, in the advanced technology of its water supplies and fountains, and in its overdimensioned architecture, which altogether implied new ways of exploiting nature (see also Nordin 2015). Earth, water and fire were harnessed in order to materialise a number of utopian and symbolic ideas, and to construct a universal scenography of power and control which touched not only nature and environment but people and their spaces as well. ...
This article uses the elemental concepts of earth, water and fire to examine the production, use and control of space in the seventeenth-century Wrangel estate at Skokloster in central Sweden. Using a relational approach, the paper discusses how the elements symbolically express a part of the baroque aesthetic, how they were emphasised or pinned down as part of an economic asset, and how they reacted and produced space in dialogue with human agents. The reciprocal relations between man and earth through food production, tenancy and rent, or the management of woodland for firewood, demonstrate an on-going interaction between various socially-hierarchical agents. The construction of dams and the control of water illustrate other struggles between the tenants, the proprietor and the water itself. When setting up new types of heating systems inside the castle multiple sources of agency are visualised – the owners, the domestic servants, the woodland and the fireplaces. The study concludes that the elements operated as more than aesthetic and philosophical categories, but were empirically-evident worldly driving-forces.
... These actors established the fi rst mining systems in the north. They processed the ores in smelters and refi ned it in forges (Silbojokk, Kengis and Juvankaisenmaa), which they fuelled with charcoal produced from the forests ( Nordin & Ojala 2015 ;Nordin 2015 ;RKY 2009 ;Puustinen 2003 ). ...
... The North of Sweden, where historical Sápmi 1 lands are located, have consistently been treated as an internal colony with an "infinite depot of raw materials" (Lawrence & Åhrén, 2017, p. 157). Since the 1600s, industrialization and colonialism have gone hand in hand through regulating and the subsequent commodification of space and people (Nordin, 2015). There are only a few urban centres in this part of the country, with long distances between communities. ...
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This article explores the intersections of gender and centre–periphery relations and calls for theoretical and political involvement in gendered struggles against colonial and capitalist forces across different national contexts. The article raises questions about the possibility of resisting inequality and exploitation arising from capitalist expansion and extraction of natural resources in Sweden and Greece, outside of urban contexts. It does so by highlighting women’s role in protest movements in peripheral places and questioning power relations between centre and periphery. The article also argues that making visible women’s struggles and contributions to protest movements brings about vital knowledge for realizing democratic worlds that do not thrive on the destruction of natural resources and the institutionalization of inequalities.
... In northern Finland too, the region is facing dual and ambivalent representations (Komu 2019;Herva, Varnajot & Pashkevich, in press). On the one hand, the region is pictured as a land full of resources (Naum 2016;Nordin 2015). Indeed, the European North had been providing southern regions with amber and tin in Ancient Greece, which was part of the reasons why Pytheas ventured to this unknown world in 330 BC, but the North also was the source of narwhal tusks, timber, gold and other metals, for example (Davidson 2005;Komu 2019). ...
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... The rich natural resources of Sápmi, primarily metals (including silver), also attracted the Swedish government in the 16th and 17th century, keen on financing its expensive wars in Europe. Critical accounts (Lindmark 2013;Nordin 2015;Ojala and Nordin 2015) emphasize the similarity of western colonialist policies to those related to Sápmi in the Sweden of the time, focusing particularly on the extraction of natural resources. The foundation of mining companies in Kiruna and Malmberget later in the 19th and early 20th century paved the way for the boom in the mining industry in Sweden (Ojala and Nordin 2015, 12) and led to the construction of a capitalist "technological megasystem" in Sweden's north, with "hydropower plants, railway tracks and military installations" (Sotoca 2020, 76). ...
This article examines the discursive construction of nature as represented by the Swedish TV documentary Tvångsförflyttningar – Bággojohtin , which narrates the history of forced displacements of the indigenous people of Sami in northern Sweden in the early 20th century. Our discursive-material analysis highlights the role of nature in these displacements, and how, in these tragic historical developments, nature was regulated by the antagonistically positioned discursive frameworks of the state and the Sami, both of which, in very different ways, sought to integrate it into their respective systems of meaning. By bringing attention to the interconnection of the discursive and the material, we argue that nature, through a series of subversive acts, resisted both the environmental governmentality of the state and the counter-hegemonic environmental knowledge of the Sami. Thus, the article contributes to the understanding of the multiple discursive struggles around flora and fauna, but also nature’s own agency and voice.
In recent years, there has been a large-scale boom in mining in the present-day Swedish part of Sápmi, leading to protests from Sámi activists as well as environmentalist groups. To the protesters, issues of Swedish colonialism and Sámi indigeneity are central, and history becomes important. Taking its starting point in the mining conflicts, this article discusses Sámi archaeology and claims for Sámi indigenous land and cultural rights. We argue that it is important to further explore the colonial history in Sápmi, and its meaning and consequences today. Archaeology can contribute with new perspectives on colonial histories and relations, and connections between past and present in Sápmi. At the same time, many issues concerning the ethics and politics of archaeology need to be discussed. Furthermore, in discussions on Sámi archaeology and heritage management in Sápmi, it is important to consider experiences from the international fields of postcolonial studies and indigenous archaeology. © 2015 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.
In 1620, the Danish colony of Tranquebar, on the Coromandel Coast in India, was founded by an expedition jointly mounted by the Danish Crown and the Danish East India Company, under the command of the Danish nobleman Ove Gjedde. Gjedde soon went back to Denmark, but the experiences gained in the colony proved important for his future career as a military man, civil servant and industrialist. The purpose of the article is to study the form of entanglement between people, places and things, provided through early modern globalization. This is done through a biographical analysis of the life, things and actions of, and related to, Ove Gjedde. The article suggests that the actions of Gjedde should be understood and interpreted in a global context showing the role of Scandinavia in early modern globalization. This study focuses on material culture as well as people in order to capture change, development and power relations between people and between people and things. The subjects and objects — human and non-human — are seen in this study as equally important in promoting change and development.
Archaeologies of “Us” and “Them” explores the concept of indigeneity within the field of archaeology and heritage and in particular examines the shifts in power that occur when ‘we’ define ‘the other’ by categorizing ‘them’ as indigenous. Recognizing the complex and shifting distinctions between indigenous and non-indigenous pasts and presents, this volume gives a nuanced analysis of the underlying definitions, concepts and ethics associated with this field in order to explore Indigenous archaeology as a theoretical, ethical and political concept. Indigenous archaeology is an increasingly important topic discussed worldwide, and as such critical analyses must be applied to debates which are often surrounded by political correctness and consensus views. Drawing on an international range of global case studies, this timely and sensitive collection significantly contributes to the development of archaeological critical theory. © 2017 Charlotta Hillerdal, Anna Karlström and Carl-Gösta Ojala.
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This article explores the connection between identity and the consumption of fish in the 16th-century multi-ethnic town of Nya Lödöse, Sweden. Kitchen waste from five town plots was compared to establish what fish people ate, and to look for consumption that deviated from the norm. The main aim was to test whether it is possible to identify immigrant households via fish remains: Are there any cultural markers that are specific to some regional cuisines? Regional cuisines used and continue to use various preserved fish products as staples, and consumption of specific fish products may therefore be indicative of foreign inhabitants. It is possible to identify many of these fish products in archaeological assemblages. The results of this study suggest that preserved fish products may, in some cases, represent cultural markers.
Reindeer winter feeding is increasingly important to reindeer herders due to the effects of larger reindeer herds, fragmentation of pastures due to other land use, and climate change on the quantity and quality of winter pastures. Feeding also plays an important role in taming individuals selected for draught reindeer training. In traditional reindeer pastoralism, reindeer received supplementary fodder such as tree branches, lichen, grasses, and sedges in difficult winters. This chapter presents the earliest evidence of reindeer feeding, c. 1200 CE, through stable isotope analysis and an examination of feeding behaviour evidenced by physical activity markers in the skeleton. The role of reindeer feeding in today’s reindeer-herding practice, both for taming individuals destined for draught and racing use and for nutritional reasons in the winter, is discussed based on reindeer herders’ traditional and practical knowledge. The implications for the interpretation of the archaeological data are also explored.
This article assesses the construction of cultural geographies of the European far North through an exploration of how Arctic motifs and imaginaries are used in the Christmas tourism industry in Finnish Lapland, and particularly in the city of Rovaniemi, which advertises itself as the ‘Official Hometown of Santa Claus’. Specifically, we draw parallels between Christmas tourism and Arctic mining by examining the similarities and interconnections between them. This highlights how these industries are related to the Arctic landscape they operate in and how both are ultimately embedded in similar cultural perceptions of and engagements with Lapland dating back centuries. A long-term perspective on Arctic geographical imaginaries enables a critical assessment of how the tourism and mining industries are both steeped in the exoticization and mythologising of the Arctic on the one hand and in a tradition of material and symbolic exploitation of northern resources on the other. This approach helps researchers to highlight a problematic character of the current development of Christmas tourism in Lapland.
This chapter revolves around a central dilemma: whether to see Iceland as coloniser or colonised. On the one hand, it was clearly linked to the Danish project of colonialism outside Europe, benefiting from access to exotic goods and influenced by ideologies of race and whiteness. On the other hand, Iceland was itself a dependency of Denmark and, from the nineteenth century, developed a discourse of nationalism and independence. This ambiguity will be used to explore ways in which to rethink the concept of colonialism in relation to European history and modernity. Using archaeological examples, this chapter will examine the tensions of Iceland as coloniser/colonised exploring themes such as the archaeology of Danish presence, nationalism, material ideologies of race and the extent of Iceland’s articulation within global commodity networks produced through the colonial project. It will be argued that the marginal location of Iceland—geographically and historically—challenges us to contest the dominant narratives of modernity.
The present chapter analyses state education of the indigenous Saami population in early modern Sweden. Making some initial comparisons between the Saami boarding school system of 1723 and the twentieth-century priest seminaries in Belgian Congo, the chapter presents two examples of Saami students opposing the acculturation policy applied in the schools. The stories of Olof in the 1670s and Anders in the 1760s highlight the role of education as a tool in the colonial power’s cultural influence on the Saami. Isolated from their native culture and under constant supervision, Saami children were exposed to intensive acculturation during their years at boarding school. While education managed to break Anders’ resistance, education placed tools in the hands of Olof, who after his schooling became an articulate advocate of Saami rights, most palpably demonstrated in an appeal to the King. In this letter, which provoked conspicuous indignation among local and regional authorities, Olof asked for permission to become a schoolmaster and minister for his Saami community. He also argued for the right to use the Saami drum by referring to its alleged function of compass. Even though Olof’s appeal had no success, he stands at the head of a long line of Saami political activists who gained the opportunity of formulating their standpoints in writing thanks to the Swedish government’s educational programmes.
Contextual and interpretive approaches have broadened perspectives on historical cartography since the 1980s, but maps still continue to be understood as a means of encoding and communicating spatial information and ideas. These established approaches to maps, however, are embedded in modernist assumptions and may misrepresent the function and meaning of maps, especially in contexts such as Renaissance Europe. This article considers the meaning of the magical associations and aspects of Renaissance maps from a relational perspective. It is argued on historical and theoretical grounds that maps engaged, and were recognized to engage, directly with the workings of the world and thus exercised causations of a magical kind.The explicit magical associations of cartography waned towards the end of the 17th century, but the magic of maps became hidden rather than lost in the process.
Silver had an emblematic position in the 17th-century Atlantic world. After the Spanish had discovered silver ores in America, the metal’s meaning became symbolic of colonial dominion, of great wealth and providential fortune. Sweden too initiated a colonial project to obtain silver in the mountainous regions of Lapland. Silver-works were founded in order to refine the metal, and the industry borrowed many ideas from the American plantation system as mediated through Dutch entrepreneurs. This process led to the increased importance of silver, seen in royal dress and furniture amongst other products associated with the colonial world.
This article addresses a paradox: on the one hand, environmental sociology, as currently developed, is closely associated with the thesis that the classical sociological tradition is devoid of systematic in- sights into environmental problems; on the other hand, evidence of crucial classical contributions in this area, particularly in Marx, but also in Weber, Durkheim, and others, is too abundant to be convinc- ingly denied. The nature of this paradox, its origins, and the means of transcending it are illustrated primarily through an analysis of Marx's theory of metabolic rift, which, it is contended, offers impor- tant classical foundations for environmental sociology. CLASSICAL BARRIERS TO ENVIRONMENTAL SOCIOLOGY In recent decades, we have witnessed a significant transformation in social thought as various disciplines have sought to incorporate ecological awareness into their core paradigms in response to the challenge raised by environmentalism and by what is now widely perceived as a global ecological crisis. This transformation has involved a twofold process of rejecting much of previous thought as ecologically unsound, together with an attempt to build on the past, where possible. This can be seen as oc- curring with unequal degrees of success in the various disciplines. Geogra- phy, with its long history of focusing on the development of the natural landscape and on biogeography (see Sauer 1963), was the social science that adapted most easily to growing environmental concerns. Anthropol-
Evolution of the Market PatternThe Self-Regulating Market and the Fictitious Commodities: Labor, Land, and Money
This paper explores some of the theoretical issues surrounding the commodification of nature and its value as a research topic. In particular it examines the relationship between European colonization, the rise of capitalism and the increased use of abstract space. An appeal is also made for adding environmental history to the research agenda of historical archaeology. Case studies from South Africa and Virginia illustrate the manner in which abstract notions of space and the environment contributed to the commodification of nature. The Virginia case study from Jamestown Island provides a particularly vivid example of how micro- and macro-level environmental changes can be linked to important political and economic events.
From the time of their earliest encounters with European explorers and missionaries, Native peoples of eastern North America acquired metal trinkets and utilitarian items and traded them to other aboriginal communities. As Native consumption of European products increased, their material culture repertoires shifted from ones made up exclusively of items produced from their own craft industries to ones substantially reconstituted by active appropriation, manipulation, and use of foreign goods. These material transformations took place during the same time that escalating historical, political, economic, and demographic influences (such as epidemics, new types of living arrangements, intergroup hostilities, new political alliances, missionization and conversion, changes in subsistence modes, etc.) disrupted Native systems. Ehrhardt's research addresses the early technological responses of one particular group, the Late Protohistoric Illinois Indians, to the availability of European-introduced metal objects. To do so, she applied a complementary suite of archaeometric methods to a sample of 806 copper-based metal artifacts excavated from securely dated domestic contexts at the Illiniwek Village Historic Site in Clark County, Missouri. Ehrhardt's scientific findings are integrated with observations from historical, archaeological, and archival research to place metal use by this group in a broad social context and to critique the acculturation perspective at other Contact Period sites. In revealing actual Native practice, from material selection and procurement to ultimate discard, the author challenges technocentric explanations for Native material and cultural change at contact. Copyright
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